Victoria Legal Aid Handbook for Lawyers

Before applying for a grant of assistance for a person to attend Victoria Legal Aid's (VLA’s) Family Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS), lawyers should read the following important information about FDRS.


VLA may make a grant of legal assistance to adults for family dispute resolution at FDRS in parenting disputes where:

  1. the following threshold tests are met:

and the person is either

  1. a priority FDRS client


  1. is involved in a parenting dispute where one (or more) of the following applies:
    1. allegations have been made that indicate there is a risk to the wellbeing and/or safety of the child from being subjected or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence
    2. the child’s ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with one or both of their parents (or, where the person seeking assistance is not a parent of the child, with that person), will be substantially prejudiced by the proposals or conduct of a party to the dispute
    3. there are allegations that there is or has been a risk of family violence. The person alleged to be the victim, as a priority FDRS client, and the person who is alleged to be the perpetrator of the family violence are both included in this definition.

Other mandatory requirements

As well as the requirements set out in Guideline 1.2, additional criteria apply in the following circumstances:

Where a party is not a parent of the child

Legal assistance in parenting matters is most commonly granted to one or both of the parents of the child. Where the person is not a parent of the child, VLA must also be satisfied that:

In determining the best interests of the child, where there are state child protection orders in place or child welfare proceedings on foot, we may grant assistance to a person who is not a parent of the child where the orders or proposed orders are in favour of that person.

Discharge or vary orders

Where the person is applying for assistance to discharge or vary existing parenting orders, there must also have been a significant change in circumstances since the parenting order was made.

If the significant change in circumstances has been caused by the applicant, we will consider the circumstances surrounding that change in deciding whether it is appropriate to make a grant of legal assistance to the applicant.


Where the person is applying for assistance for contravention of final or interim parenting orders, or for contempt of court, the allegations must be that there has been a substantial contravention of the orders.

The following applies to grants of assistance for contravention:

  • the request for assistance should be made without unreasonable delay after the orders have been contravened
  • we treat grants of assistance for contravention as a new matter for the purposes of family law cost management. This means we will not include the amount of the grant when calculating the cost ceiling for the substantive matter.

Documentary requirements

Applications for assistance under this guideline are within the simplified grants process and are submitted through ATLAS. Lawyers submitting an application must ensure that evidence supporting the application is kept on the file.

Lawyers are also encouraged to complete a Family law worksheet and a Proof of means worksheet for their file, available on the Invoice, forms and worksheets page.

Fees available

For information about fees available for a grant under this guideline, see Fee table 4.1.

Costs where an Independent children's lawyer (ICL) is appointed

In matters where an ICL is appointed, parties may be required to contribute to the costs of the ICL. For more information, see Contribution to the cost of representation by an ICL.

Notes on this guideline

For commentary and examples on the eligibility criteria, grants assessment process, documentary requirements and fees and billing relevant to this guideline see the Notes on guideline 1.2.

Reviewed 19 April 2023

In this section